Tube Chair (1969)

Italian industrial design powerhouse Joe Colombo might have been responsible for designing the first-ever modular sofa with its iconic Tube Chair. First manufactured by Flexform in 1969, it’s found in many museums all over the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Vitra Design Museum.

Joe Colombo Tube Chair-brown bicolor armchair, Triennale Design Museum
Joe Colombo Tube Chair (1969)-brown bicolor armchair, Triennale Design Museum

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Italian Design

Joe Colombo (1930-1971) designed “Tube Chair” in 1969, the year after student protests took over streets and squares throughout the West.

Joe Colombo's portrait in black and white.
Joe Colombo

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Italian architect and designer Joe Colombo responded to the changing social conditions of the 1960s by radically reinventing furniture forms and creating innovative interior environments reflecting swiftly evolving modes of living.

Thanks to Italian furniture brand Cappelini, the adjustable chair has been reissued and can now feature prominently in your own living room.

Tube chair
Tube chair

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“I didn’t want a piece of this importance to remain only on the pages of design books,” said creative director Giulio Cappellini. “Instead I wanted it to still be purchased and used today.”

The graphic, highly modern chair is made up of four tubes of varying diameter connected by fastening hooks. They form the headrest, back support, seat, and leg rest and can be configured according to the user’s preference. At first, Flexform sold the “Tube Chair” packaged in a canvas bag similar to the ones used for sleeping bags.

The extremely original armchair he invented – combining four hollow cylinders in PVC, foam rubber, and leather – is proof of the deeply oppositional spirit of the Milanese self-professed “anti-designer”. Like many of his fellow artists in Italy and in Europe who gathered under the Radical Design label, and drew inspiration from Pop Art and avant-gardist movements, Colombo used art to express his dissent for mainstream rationalism.

Tube Chair, modularity and flexibility in modular structure, Italy 1969.
Joe Colombo – Tube Chair – modularity and flexibility in modular structure Italy 1969

Image source: by Andrea Pavanello, Milano

The modular cylinders that make up “Tube Chair” allow the user to customize the armchair’s shape (or join more than one to invent even more imaginative configurations), adapting it to the available space.

An example of interior design with the Tube Chair.
Tube Chair

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How is it Made?

Tube Chair is made of four main components, each component is hollowed using rotational moulding technology. New generation manufacturing techniques have kept the essence of the original design intact: metal hooks connect each component together and can also be swapped over to suit different needs (backrest and seat have exactly the same shape). Tube Chair is upholstered in either leather or a bi-stretch fabric available in the following Cappellini colours: black, white, yellow, turquoise or orange.

Joe Colombo Designs
Joe Colombo Designs

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A Timeless Icon

“Even though it’s been a long time since it’s initial design, it continues to preserve its freshness and contemporaneity. It was the first modular sofa able to fit every need and still has a very contemporary pop image. […] I have always considered Tube Chair by Joe Colombo a milestone in the history of contemporary design.” said Cappellini.

Cappellini Showroom in Paris with the re-edition of the famous Tube Chair by Joe Colombo.
Cappellini Showroom in Paris with the re-edition of the famous Tube Chair by Joe Colombo

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Data sheet

Designer: Joe Colombo (Italian, Milan 1930–1971 Milan)

Manufacturer: Flexform, (actual manufacture, Cappellini)

Year: 1969–70

Medium: PVC plastic (polyvinyl chloride), tubular steel, rubber, polyurethane foam, synthetic knit upholstery


Outer dimensions (61 × 49.5 cm)
Outer dimensions (61 × 40 cm)
Outer dimensions (61 × 29.2 cm)
Outer dimensions (61 × 17.8 cm)
Inner diameter (40 cm)
Inner diameter (31 cm)
Inner diameter (19.5 cm)
Inner diameter (9.5 cm)
Mount (6 Original metal clamps): (8.9 × 7 cm)

Tube Chair Cappellini, dimensions.
Tube Chair Cappellini, dimensions.

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